Kathryn Sansone – Executive Director

A versatile arts administrator, music educator, and non-profit professional, Kathryn Sansone currently serves as the Executive Director of Musical Mentors Collaborative.

Kathryn began her career in 2003 working with multiple non-profit arts organizations including Handel & Haydn Society, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, New England Conservatory, and English National Opera. In 2007 she moved to the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado to work as Choral Director for a rural school district – teaching middle school and high school. While working as a public school educator she also founded the Maroon Bel Canto Children’s Chorus which is now part of the Aspen Music Festival and School’s Education and Community programming. Between 2012 and 2022, Kathryn worked full time for the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) first as Associate Dean and most recently as Dean of Students. While working for AMFS she also oversaw all community and education programming, expanding access to Roaring Fork Valley youth and families through multiple in school and after school programs. Following a decade at AMFS, Kathryn worked for the Aspen based non-profit, Buddy Program, as Development Director. During her time with this youth serving organization, she supported their 50th Anniversary Impact Campaign and raised annual funds to help further their mission to empower youth through mentoring experiences to achieve their full potential.

In addition to being a career educator and arts administrator, Kathryn is a mother, wife, outdoorswoman, choral conductor, singer, avid reader, and former ski instructor. She received her BA in Vocal Performance as well as her MA in Vocal Pedagogy with a Music in Education Concentration from New England Conservatory.

Matt Siffert — Program Director

Matt Siffert is a musician and arts activist. At Musical Mentors Collaborative, he is dedicated to developing fruitful relationships between teachers, students, and staff, as well as expanding MMC’s reach to new communities.

After studying at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and Carnegie Mellon University, Siffert moved to Nashville and launched an international performing career. He has released eight albums as a solo artist, worked with musicians such as Jon Batiste and Adia Victoria, and performed all over the U.S., from the Metropolitan Opera to South by Southwest, as well as internationally, from Cuba to Croatia. His work has been featured in publications such as The New Yorker, NPR, and The Deli, where he won Nashville’s Emerging Artist award.

Siffert is an advocate for other musicians and helps build substantive relationships between artists and audiences. He has worked with a variety of artists and organizations, from Gorillaz to Norah Jones, Capitol Records to Smithsonian Folkways.

Siffert is also passionate about music education, regularly performing for and teaching music appreciation to both the elderly and young musicians. He is honored to be a member of the Musical Mentors Collaborative family.

Anne Lieberwirth – Director of Operations

Born in Germany, Anne while in her early 20s performed and recorded in numerous formations of the Berlin Jazz scene, and appeared at Jazz clubs and Festivals across Europe, including Montreux Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, Woman in Jazz and others. At the age of 25, Anne moved to New York City (on a DAAD scholarship to study in the Master program of Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College). This is where she lived and worked for the next six years as a freelance recording artist and touring bass player with Dan Zanes, Victor Jones’ Culture-Versy, and countless other ensembles and singer/songwriters such as Wakey!Wakey!, Janita and Ed Vallance.

While on tour in Canada, she met her husband in Toronto, where she decided to settle down. Having left behind a touring career, she began exploring a career in web and graphic design as well as event marketing before taking on marketing and administrative duties for one of Canada’s most iconic and storied Jazz venues, The Trane Studio, and later with organizations such as Caliban Arts Theatre and CONTXT. In Toronto as well she was also the administrator for Springboard To Music, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing music education to diverse and disenfranchised youths.

Presently Anne lives in Leipzig, Germany, and holds a BA in Jazz Performance and an MA in Music Education. She is passionate about being able to contribute and share her knowledge and experiences to a cause she deeply believes in, and one which continues to make a meaningful impact in the lives of so many young people.

Camellia Aftahi – University Chapter Coordinator

Camellia Aftahi (she/her) is an Iranian-American double bassist currently based out of Southern California. Her interests lie in the intersection between art, community, and self-exploration. From a background focused in classical music, Camellia now uses her skills as a bassist, musician, and teacher to engage in the performance and creation of original art, both hers and others’.
Camellia was a fellow of the 2018-20 class of the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship, where she earned her MM in Double Bass performance from CCM while regularly performing with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under the mentorship of CSO principal bass Owen Lee. During her time in Cincinnati, Camellia received the opportunity to attend SphinxConnect as a SphinxConnect Fellow, attend workshops which allowed her to work one-on-one with such leaders as Vijay Gupta and Ed Barker, and begin engaging in truly integral conversations concerning racism in classical music. Camellia looks forward to a lifetime of work towards ensuring that classical music is accessible to all. Camellia earned her BM in Double Bass performance from San Diego State University while studying with Jeremy Kurtz-Harris and Jory Herman.Camellia is a strong believer in the power of organizing within one’s own community to achieve structural change. In Cincinnati, Camellia became a founding member of the new music chamber ensemble New Downbeat. Led by bassoonist Dr. Caroline Sackleh, New Downbeat is a space that provides female-identifying musicians the opportunity to premiere new works and work closely with composers. Also during her time in Cincinnati, Camellia became acquainted with the El Sistema educational system while teaching at the El Sistema-based non-profit MYCincinnati. In the summer of 2020, Camellia joined the Bass Players for Black Composers administrative team, serving as secretary and board member, helping to commission 11 new works by Black composers for the double bass. Most recently, Camellia started working for the non-profit organization, Musical Mentors Collaborative as their University Chapters Coordinator.
Other performing credits include performing with the La Jolla Symphony under the direction of Steven Schick, a summer with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra as a Diversity Fellow, the Colour of Music festival, and the Next Festival of Emerging Artists led by Peter Askim. In the summer of 2021, Camellia attended the Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute at MASS MoCA as a Robert Black Double Bass Fellow.

Jesse Strauss – Grants Manager

Jesse Strauss is a grant writer, nonprofit consultant, and classical percussionist based in Nashville, TN. As a musician and lifetime music appreciator, he has most enjoyed writing for a variety of arts and cultural organizations. He currently serves as the Grants Manager for the Nashville Symphony, where he has worked in various roles since 2014, and he supports grant writing efforts at Actors Bridge Ensemble, Unmanageable Arts, Santa Monica Symphony, Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities (YEAH!), and Centennial Park Conservancy. He is equally experienced fundraising for social and human services organizations and has procured federal, state, and private funding in service areas as diverse as mental health, childcare and early education, restorative justice, and healthcare. Last year, he helped raise over $1.5 million for 15+ nonprofits. Jesse cofounded Make Music Nashville, a free day of music that brings outdoor concerts and participatory musical activities to neighborhoods around the city each year on the summer solstice. He is also the Assistant Artistic Director and percussionist for contemporary classical ensemble chatterbird. He holds a B.M. in Percussion Performance from Belmont University, where he studied under Christopher Norton.

Alex Van Gils (advisor)

Alex Van Gils composes music for humans, instruments, and computers. He is currently captivated by notions of transition and gradient—liminal spaces and in-betweens. Alex holds a Ph. D. in Music Theory and Composition from UC Davis. His dissertation work included The Permanent, a concerto for improvising jazz saxophone and orchestra. Alex lives in Brooklyn, NY, and his active projects include XBUCKET, a performance trio featuring live-processed violin and generative video, and also a discipline of daily compositions with Max/MSP/Jitter visuals uploaded to @avg.music on instagram. Alex is a founding member of Cutelab, a place for colors and sounds in NYC.

Chy Davin (advisor)

Chy Davin is a television and integrated marketing producer. As a producer she has developed and executed different mediums for campaigns, live-streams, and new media. She studied at New York University and specializes in social good, integrated marketing, and challenge development for competition television.

Ricky Schweitzer (advisor)

Ricky graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Pre-Medical Studies and Music after spending most of his life on or near Broadway (Jason Robert Brown’s “13,” “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.). He received his Master’s of Music from Berklee’s Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games program in 2017. In addition to working with MMC, Ricky also writes film scores, sings, tutors, and has recently worked as an assistant and coordinator for songwriter Toby Gad (John Legend’s “All of Me,” Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy,” and Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry”). Ricky managed Toby’s recording studio as well as his day-to-day life, often times assisting – or running – recording sessions. His predilection for intense melody and warm textures combined with his diverse musical influences help him provide unique insight into any musical endeavor. Ricky apologizes for writing his bio in the third person and promises that he is much more grounded in real life.

Kiki She (advisor)

Kiki graduated from New York University with a major in Music Business and minor in East Asian Studies. She joined Musical Mentors Collaborative at NYU in her junior year as a violin instructor and later served as its Vice-President for Fall 2020 semester. Besides dedicating her time to MMC, Kiki continues to advocate for musicians in her role as an Admin Associate in the Department of Licensing and Copyright at Reservoir Media. She specializes in YouTube CMS, Digital Licensing, and Music Maestro IP management.

Caeli Smith (advisor)

Called “intense, precise, and full of personality” after appearing as concerto soloist with The Juilliard Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall (OperaClick), Caeli Smith is an award-winning chamber musician, educator, and facilitator. She has performed across the United States, Europe, and Asia with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Knights, Sejong Soloists, Jordi Savall, and the Verbier Chamber Orchestra. Caeli is an alum of Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect, the post-graduate performance, education, and leadership program of Carnegie Hall and The Juilliard School.